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Christian Malford

Christian Malford Church of England Primary School

Christian Malford Church of England Primary School Date Photo Taken 2008
Uploaded 01/09/2010 15:23:25
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Map Latitude 51.505971180389686 : Longitude -2.0566588640213013
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

An early school at Christian Malford was established by means of a grant of £100 from the Rev. W. Wicks in 1825; this school was attended by 104 pupils on weekdays and an additional 35 on Sundays.

Ten years later, in 1835 a school building was erected on a site given to the parish a number of years before by the Earl of Caernarvon. The building was financed by public subscription and continued to be supported by a voluntary rate. In 1856 the building was enlarged and improved, again by subscription.

When a census of Wiltshire schools was carried out in 1859 by HM Inspector William Warburton, the school was described as having two rooms: a main 'school' room and smaller class room. These had a 'board floor, parallel desks, and good light and ventilation'. At this time there were 100 to 130 pupils, both boys and girls. The average age of the children in the top class was 14. A trained and registered master was in charge of the school, supported by three pupil teachers. The school was described as 'excellent' with good discipline and teaching. By November 1870 there were 139 pupils on roll, with an additional 48 registered for night school.

The school pre-dated the surrounding National Schools and consequently children from surrounding parishes attended the school at the time of the 1859 inspection. Teachers from the school were also sent out to neighbouring schools; for example at Langley Burrell there was a small mixed school of some 30 to 40 pupils in the charge of a mistress supported by a girl from the top class of Christian Malford school 'capable of teaching Bible and Catechism, and reading, and writing and needlework'. A girl from the top class of Christian Malford School also assisted the mistress of Lyneham National School.

Classes in history were taken at Christian Malford School by the daughter of the Rector, Rev. R.V. Law, who was closely involved with the school until he retired to Bath in 1877.

In 1866 the Diocesan Inspector's report to the Bishop offered the opinion that 'Christian Malford has the best mixed school in the Deanery'.

The subjects taught at the school in the 19th century included reading, writing arithmetic, religious knowledge, grammar, geography and singing. In addition to these subjects there were 'Object Lessons' based on diverse topics. In the year 1889-1890 the programme of object lessons for the Infants included:
The Tiger, The Fox, Sheep shearing, The Robin, Catching Fish, A Farmyard, The Seasons, A Carpenter's Shop, Leather, Cotton, The Primrose, The Stinging Nettle, Wood, A Bottle and The Sea-shore.

In addition, each class (Standards 1 - VII) learned poems for recitation.

Every year the children would be examined in reading, writing and arithmetic and the results, together with attendance figures, supplemented the HM Inspection of the school and determined the financial grants which the school would receive from government. The reports of both HM and Diocesan Inspectors - the latter of which tested the children's religious learning - were meticulously copied into the school log books.

Of particular interest to family historians with ancestors at Christian Malford and surrounding parishes is the fact that school log books covering the period from the mid-1860s to the late 1870 include tables drawn up by the master and showing individually named children in the school, their date of entry, age, level entered and level to be moved to. Another column, although frequently left blank, shows the occupation of the pupil's father. Similar tables were drawn up for the Night School. Other tables recorded examination results - again naming individual pupils - and overall results and grants received.

The rigorous recording of attendance figures in the log books is notable; because of the importance of these figures in the funding of the school, reasons for poor attendance are also noted assiduously: Regular winter flooding in the parish, first noted in 1864, continued to be recorded in subsequent years. Wet weather in general would affect attendance severely when children walked - sometimes considerable distances - to school for both morning and afternoon sessions. Repeatedly in the winters of the late 19th century children from particular parts of the parish, or from surrounding parishes, were unable to come to school as a result of flooding. On occasion, once the children were in school they were sent home early for this reason.

Proximity to the river Avon resulted in tragedies on two occasions: in 1880 a pupil fell into the river and drowned; later, in July 1918 a six-year old pupil drowned while fishing in the Avon.

On occasion the roads would be impassable with snow, as in 1884 when the school was closed for two days as a result. More clement weather also affected attendance, however, particularly at harvest time. Although the harvest vacation took place for three weeks from early to mid-August, absences continued to be recorded at the beginning of the new term as pupils helped in the fields, gleaning or potato-picking. In the springtime too, pupils might be noted as absent as a result of potato planting, as in March 1885, or bird minding, noted in 1873.

Illnesses were also indicated as a reason for non-attendance of pupils. In addition to influenza, of which there was an outbreak in Spring 1895 with both master and mistress also ill, with the school closed for a week as a result, there was a more serious outbreak of scarlet fever in May 1884. The County Medical Officer monitored illnesses in school and at times directed that an affected child should be temporarily withdrawn. Periodically the School Nurse visited to examine the children, as did the School Dentist who examined their teeth. As early as October 1864 the school had been visited to take an estimate of the number of children who had been vaccinated against smallpox, as had been compulsory since 1853.

An entry on 29 June 1870 records a more unusual reason for non-attendance,: 'Most of the elder children were absent this afternoon through several cottages having been burnt down during the morning'!

Work, floods and illnesses, however, were punctuated by regular celebrations such as the annual School Treat. The first of these is described as taking place on August 5th 1864, the day after breaking up for the harvest vacation, in the Rector's garden. Both day and Sunday school pupils had met at the school at 2.00 p.m. and then processed to the garden where a 'plentiful supply' of tea and cake was taken on the lawn. After the tea came games, in which the Rector 'enthusiastically participated'. Each child took home a 'great piece' of cake.

In August 1870 cricket and football matches were played against the boys of Chippenham National School, and in November 1897 a prize-giving and singing event was held in the presence of parents.

The death of Queen Victoria in January 1901 is not noted, but the following day the older children attended church, returning at 10 a.m. to continue their schoolwork. In 1907 the average attendance is noted as 80 pupils.

In 1902 alterations were carried out to the ceilings of the schoolrooms; the rooms were then higher, lighter and more airy.

After war broke out in September 1914 the children's history and geography lessons were based on the protagonists and territories of the war. In November of the same year a collection of vegetables began on Friday mornings for Belgian refugees in Chippenham.

In October 1914, 12 girls from the top class began a month's course in cookery, laundry and housewifery, held in the Congregational Chapel schoolroom. A few months later, in February 1915, six boys started to learn milking and thatching and poultry keeping.

Periodically during the course of the war news of former pupils killed in France was received and noted in the school log books. Collections for the Red Cross were made and in 1918 the proceeds of the sale of waste paper were donated to the Red Cross 'miles of pennies' fund.

A happier communication from the world outside Wiltshire came in June 1916 when letters were received from Kilburn Lane School in London, thanking the children for a collection of flowers and nature specimens they had sent.

When news of the Armistice on 11th November 1918 was received, the pupils were given an afternoon's holiday the following day. On 13th November they attended a Thanksgiving Service at the church and in subsequent years attended services of remembrance there.

The interwar years were notable for some extremely cold winter conditions in the school: on one day in December 1920 the temperature did not rise above 0 degrees centigrade and consequently marching and physical exercises took the place of schoolwork. In April 1925 there was an outbreak of diphtheria.

When the school reopened after the summer holidays on 11th September 1939 the new term was a week late in starting because war had been declared on 3rd September. Evacuees from London quickly arrived and were examined by the dentist. More evacuees were admitted the following June and the total number of children now on roll was 116. The headmaster and mistress of the evacuated school visited some of the children's billets and were declared highly pleased. When the Diocesan Inspector visited in on 25 October 1940, he reported that 'the evacuated children had become so much at home in this school that it was difficult to identify them by their answers…..'
During the war the school remained open during the holidays for those evacuees who wished to attend. The teachers devised a rota to look after them.

Victory in Europe was declared on 7th May 1945 and two days of holidays for the children ensued on 8th and 9th May 1945.

Under the provisions of the Education Act of 1944 Primary Schools were created from the old Elementary Schools and at Christian Malford children at the age of 11 moved to secondary schools in Chippenham.

In 2010 Christian Malford C. of E. Primary School continues to provide primary education for children aged 4-11. After this age the majority of pupils move to Hardenhuish or Sheldon Schools in Chippenham. In October 2008 there were 80 children at the school.

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